Christmas is just around the corner and I wanted to give you a gift – my first short story about Christmas, titled, The True Meaning of Christmas.
I also posted this today on FB page – Christmas Extravaganza by Loretta Livingstone. Check out her amazing short stories. https://www.facebook.com/groups/lorettasuthorsblog/
The True Meaning of Christmas
A Short Story
Copyrighted by Janice Spina 2014
The little girl’s name is Clarinda. She is ten years old with long dark brown hair and beautiful blue eyes. She has never known what it is like to be warm or to have a full stomach. It is two days’ before Christmas and the house is bare of any signs of the holiday.
Clarinda woke up this morning and heard someone crying. She got up, grabbed her thin bathrobe and wrapped it around her quickly as she tiptoed over to the door. The floor felt cold under her feet and she felt around for her slippers, tattered as they were, they would be better than nothing at all to keep her feet warm. As she slowly opened her bedroom door the sounds were louder and she realized that they were coming from her mother’s room.
Clarinda’s mother, Miranda, was not well and hadn’t been for as long as she could remember. Her mother had progressively gotten weaker since her last two pregnancies with Clarinda’s siblings, Andrew, four and Brenda, two. Clarinda listened as she passed by her sibling’s bedroom to make sure they were not awake and needing her attention before going to her mother’s room.
In order to put food on the table for the family, Miranda had to take in washing and ironing for other people, well-to-do people. They paid well enough for her to keep her children in mended clothes and provide some meat on the table at least once a week. Her husband, Holden, had died shortly after their daughter, Brenda, was born leaving her with three children to care for without any money.
Miranda sat on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands as she cried. Her mind was whirling since the loss of her husband and she was devastated that she was too weak to continue working to take care of her children. She couldn’t afford to buy food never mind Christmas presents. Miranda looked up as the door to her bedroom slowly opened and Clarinda’s head popped in.
“Mommy, are you okay? Why are you crying?” Clarinda’s beautiful blue eyes looked at her mother with surprise and concern. They belayed her age and showed a deep intelligence. Clarinda’s eyes mirrored her father’s and only broke her mother’s heart more each time she look at her. The other two children favored their mother with their green eyes and blond hair.
“Oh, sweetie, I am all right. Just a little tired today. Don’t worry everything will be fine. Can you be a good girl now and go check on your brother and sister and bring then down to breakfast. I will make your favorite today – pancakes. We have one egg left and enough flour to make a few pancakes. You have been such a big help to Mommy. Now, go on hurry up, honey.”
Clarinda left her mother’s room and went to check on her siblings. Andrew and Brenda shared the same room and both were awake and chattering together as Clarinda entered. She told Andrew to get dressed as she changed her sister’s training diaper and dressed her in her pink pants and top. Brenda always wanted to wear pink – it was her favorite color. She smiled her sweet toddler smile after she was dressed and cuddled with Clarinda to say “thank you.”
Clarinda loved her brother and sister as if they were her own children; after all, she had been both a sister and a mother to then since they were born. She did all she could to help her mother but she was only ten and didn’t realize a lot about life yet and what it entailed to raise a family. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and took Andrew and Brenda by the hands and brought them down to the kitchen for breakfast. The enticing smell of pancakes was in the air and she found herself salivating and hurrying to set the table so they could eat. Their dinner the night before had been meager with a potato and a little gravy made from a soup bone and a piece of bread to sop up the precious liquid.
She put Brenda in her high chair and told Andrew to sit down as their mother flipped the first pancakes onto their plates. Clarinda had to cut up the pancake for Brenda and blow on the pieces so she wouldn’t burn herself trying to eat too fast. Brenda made num num sounds as she stuffed the pieces into her mouth as fast as she could. Clarinda took care of her siblings first before taking her first bite and felt herself melting with the delicious taste.
Miranda looked over at her children as they ate like it was their last meal. But, she thought sadly, it could be if her health didn’t improve soon. She didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t have anyone to turn to and didn’t want to lose her children if she asked the state for help. Clarinda was such a godsend and was already doing so much to help her. Could she ask her to do the washing and ironing too? No, she thought, she would have to do it herself but have Clarinda bring the basket of clothes to the Antonelli’s house and receive payment. Yes, that is what she would do.
Clarinda cleaned up the children’s faces and then tackled the table and the dishes in the sink as she waved at her mother to go lie down and rest. Miranda kissed her sweet daughter’s face and patted her on the head as she passed by to go to her room to rest.
Miranda called out to her daughter on her way to her room, “Thank you, sweetie, for cleaning up. I will just rest a little and then I will tackle the clothes and ironing. If you could bring the clothes over to the Antonelli’s after and pick up the payment that would be a great help to me.”
“Of course, Mommy, I will be happy to help you. I will watch the kids while you rest. I love you, Mommy.” Clarinda was fearful that her mother was going to die like her father did. She told her mother every chance she got that she loved her, thinking that maybe she would keep her healthy longer that way. She always felt terrible that her father died before she could say, “I Love you, Daddy.” Clarinda could feel tears brimming in her eyes and used her sleeve to wipe them away so that her siblings wouldn’t see her crying. She had to be strong for them.
Miranda lay down and fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. She stirred in her sleep dreaming of her husband and his hand was reaching out to her. She reached forward in her sleep to touch his hand but it just seemed too far out of reach.
While her mother slept Clarinda kept the children busy as she read several books to them. At least they had books that she managed to get from the library that were going to be thrown away. They were tattered just like the rest of the things in her life.
It was nearly noon and her mother still had not woken up. She would have to feed the children their lunch and then tackle the clothes. Clarinda knew that if she didn’t get the clothes over to the Antonelli’s today they would not get paid full price for the wash. She put together the last two slices of bread to make a bread and butter sandwich and split it between the children. While they were busy eating she would start the wash.
There was a small basket in the laundry area which was filled with their clothes and the larger basket was the Antonelli’s. Clarinda put in the first load and added the detergent which was getting low. She made sure to use it sparingly so she would have enough to finish all the clothes. While the machine was going she hurried back to check on her brother and sister. Andrew and Brenda were just finishing up the last of their sandwiches and looking for more. Clarinda checked the cabinets once again for anything to fill their little stomachs before her own. She found a few crackers which she doled out to them and ate one herself. That would be the only lunch she would have. She wasn’t a large person but she felt she could afford to lose weight but not her younger siblings who needed the nourishment more. She gave them each a full glass of water to fill them up more before putting them both down for a nap. After tucking them in to their beds she hurried back to the clothes to transfer the clean ones to the dryer and the dirty ones into the washer. At this rate it would take all day to finish washing the clothes besides having to iron them too.
Clarinda worked tirelessly for two hours without stopping until she heard Brenda crying. She rushed through the last bit of ironing and shut off the iron. As she headed into the children’s room she was greeted by smiles and happy jumping as Brenda put her arms out to her from her crib and Andrew got out of bed and snuggled close to her side. Clarinda wrapped them both in her arms and held them tightly wanting only to protect and keep them safe – if only she could. She was getting concerned about her mother since she still hadn’t woken up yet.
With the children by her side she guided them to her mother’s room to see if she was ready to get up now. She needed for her mother to watch the children while she took the clothes to the Antonelli’s.
When she opened the bedroom door she noticed her mother’s arm was hanging over the side of the bed. She moved closer and turned on the light on the night stand. What she saw made her cry out in alarm. Her mother was still and not breathing. Clarinda shook her mother’s shoulder and called out her name. Clarinda was afraid that her mother might be gone and never wake up again. The children started to cry as they felt something was wrong when Clarinda cried out and only clung tighter to their sister.
Clarinda picked up the phone on the night stand and called Dr. Harvey who was their family physician. When his secretary, Denise, answered Clarinda couldn’t speak as tears kept flooding her eyes and chocking up her speech. The children only cried louder making it even more difficult for Clarinda to hear Denise as she asked what was wrong. Denise waved at Dr. Harvey as he came into the office and pointed to the phone mouthing that it was Clarinda. He picked up the extension and asked, “Clarinda, what is wrong sweetheart?” Dr. Harvey yelled into the phone to try to be heard over all the crying. “Where is your mother, dear?”
“Sss….she is in bed, Dr. Harvey. She is not moving and I can’t wake her up. I don’t know what to do. I have to take the clothes to the Antonelli’s or Mommy will be angry and she won’t get paid. Can you come over and help me?” Clarinda sniffled and wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeves as she tried to hold onto the children at the same time. They were so frightened they wouldn’t let go of her anyway.
“Of course, Clarinda, I will be right over. Just sit tight and I’ll come and check on your mother and stay with the children while you take over the clothes. Okay, dear. Please don’t cry now. I will be right there.” Dr. Harvey put down the phone and felt his hands shaking as he took in what the poor child must be dealing with. He needed to get over to her house immediately. He told his secretary to hold all calls and postpone his afternoon appointments and that he would not be in the office the rest of the day. Denise nodded sadly, “Of course, Dr. Harvey. Is there anything I can do?”
“No, Denise, but thank you. I need to find out if Miranda is okay and stay with the young ones. Clarinda is in such a state over the Antonelli’s clothes. I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for the family. I feel terrible that I could have helped the Davises in some way and didn’t. Could you please lock up after you contact all the patients? Go home early, Denise, you work too hard and need a break. Thank you for everything.”
“No problem, Dr. Harvey. I hope Mrs. Davis is okay. If you need a babysitter I can go over there after I leave here. Call me on my cell. Okay?”
“That is very kind of you, Denise, but I think I can manage. But it is good to know that you are available in case I need you. Thank you. I will see you tomorrow.”
Dr. Harvey left his office and waved at some arriving patients who looked a little concerned that he was going out when they were coming in. All he could think about was what he would find when he got to the Davis’ house.
Clarinda paced back and forth with Brenda in her arms and Andrew hanging onto her right leg. She kept looking out the window hoping to see Dr. Harvey’s car. It had only be twenty minutes since she spoke to him. He did say he was coming. But she was worried because her mother still hadn’t woken up.
Dr. Harvey pulled into the Davis’ drive and got out of his car. He looked up and saw Clarinda in the window waving at him to come in. He could see she was still crying and the children were upset too. He carried his medical bag with him as he stepped up to the door. He didn’t get to knock as the door was pulled open and Clarinda ran into his arms choking back more tears.
Dr. Harvey patted her on the back and held her as she cried uncontrollably. He moved into the living room with Clarinda hanging onto him while the little ones hung onto her. He wanted to console her but needed to get into Miranda’s room to check her out. He was concerned that she was close to comatose if what Clarinda said was true about not being able to wake her up. He only hoped he wasn’t too late to help her.
“Clarinda, please sit down and try to calm yourself down so the little ones won’t be upset too. Okay, dear. I will go check on your mother and be right back. Why don’t you give the children something to eat while I am gone?
“We….we don’t have any more food, Dr. Harvey. I gave the children the rest of the food for lunch. That is why I have to go to the Antonelli’s to get paid for washing and ironing their clothes.” Clarinda started crying again and this time couldn’t stop. Her siblings started whining and fussing once they saw their sister upset again.
“Oh, my goodness, Clarinda, I am so sorry I didn’t know. I will take you over to the Antonelli’s child and then we will all go out to get something to eat. Okay? Now just sit tight and calm the children down.”
Dr. Harvey sadly shook his head and felt a deep guilt for not knowing how bad the situation was for this poor family. He vowed to get them some help as soon as he assessed the medical health of their mother.
Dr. Harvey opened the door to Miranda’s room and flicked on the light. What he saw wasn’t good. Miranda was laying on her side with her left arm hanging over the side of the bed. Her eyes were closed and he couldn’t detect any movement in her chest to indicate she was breathing. He pulled out his stethoscope and bent over her body to listen to her lungs and pulses. Her chest was congested and he detected a light heart rhythm and he lifted up her eyelids to check her pupils which were reacting to light. She would need to be hospitalized with what appeared to be a severe case of pneumonia. Dr. Harvey lifted up the phone and called the hospital to get an ambulance for Miranda ASAP.
His next concern was to take care of the children. He made another call to the Antonelli’s on the next block to see what they could do to help.
“Hello, yes, this is Mrs. Antonelli. Who is this?”
“This is Dr. Harvey. I am with Miranda Davis and her children. I need your help, Mrs. Antonelli. I learned from Clarinda, her ten-year-old daughter, that she was to bring over your wash and be paid for this service. Is that correct?”
“Oh, well, Mrs. Davis always brought over the wash not her daughter. What can I do for you, Dr. Harvey? I don’t understand.”
“Well, Mrs. Davis is very ill and is going into the hospital and will be unable to take care of her three children. Do you think you could help her by taking her children in until she is out of the hospital and well enough to take care of them again? I really don’t know where to turn at this time. They are really in desperate need and it is almost Christmas. Do you think you can help?” Dr. Harvey waited what seemed like minutes but were actually only thirty seconds before Mrs. Antonelli uttered a word.
“I see. I didn’t realize that Mrs. Davis was sick or I wouldn’t have asked her to continue to work for me. I am sorry to hear that. I also didn’t realize she had three children. I only know of Clarinda. How old are the other two children?” Mrs. Antonelli’s voice sounded a little surprised by the fact that there were three children to care for.
Dr. Harvey continued to persuade Mrs. Antonelli as he said, “Besides Clarinda who is ten, there is her brother Andrew, four, and sister, Brenda, who is two. Life has not been easy for them and Clarinda has been taking care of them all by herself since her mother has been sick. Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated. I need to take Miranda to the hospital now so if you could come over here and watch the children or pick them up and take them to your house it would be helpful. Oh, and Mrs. Antonelli, please feed them. They haven’t had much to eat today.” Dr. Harvey was getting a little anxious for Mrs. Antonelli’s answer as he watched the ambulance pull up outside the house.
Mrs. Antonelli finally answered positively, much to the relief of Dr. Harvey, “I will be right over to pick up the children, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Antonelli. I appreciate your help. It will mean a lot to Mrs. Davis too. She is in a bad way right now and can’t thank you herself but I will let her know what you are doing as soon as she is lucid. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Antonelli.”
Mrs. Antonelli answered back, “Merry Christmas, Dr. Harvey.” But the phone in her hand was sounding a dial tone.
Mrs. Antonelli, Angela, as most people knew her, grabbed her coat off the high coat rack and her keys off the counter and went out to the garage to her Bentley to drive over to Mrs. Davis’ to pick up the children. She was not a cold person but she was anxious about having to take care of three children. She never could have any of her own though she and her husband had tried for many years until she knew it was not to be. She didn’t know if she could do this but to refuse would be inhumane since Mrs. Davis was going to the hospital and had no one to take care of the children. She would just have to do her best and soon their mother would be back in good health.
Angela pulled into the drive next to the ambulance and ran up to the door as the EMTs rolled out a stretcher with Mrs. Davis. She moved aside and went into the house and was met by Dr. Harvey. Behind him stood three little waifs who looked scared and lost and so sad. She noticed they had all been recently crying which touched her deeply. She wanted to wrap her arms around them and tell them it was going to be all right. But she found that she couldn’t move and didn’t until Dr. Harvey brought her out of her stupor.
“Mrs. Antonelli please come it. Let me introduce you to the children – Clarinda, Andrew, and Brenda. They have been looking forward to meeting you and staying with you until their mother is well.”
Dr. Harvey leaned forward and whispered out of earshot of the children, “Thank you, Mrs. Antonelli, for doing this. It means the world to me and to Mrs. Davis. Clarinda will pack up some clothes and things for herself and her siblings and be ready to leave shortly. Now I need to follow the ambulance and get to the hospital to take care of Mrs. Davis. Thank you again, Mrs. Antonelli. It is wonderful of you to do this. I will contact you to see how the children are doing in a day or so. Take care children and be good for Mrs. Antonelli.”
Mrs. Antonelli turned to look at Clarinda but was at a loss for words as she watched the tears flowing from the ten-year-olds’ eyes. It hurt her deeply to see the child in such torment. She offered Clarinda her handkerchief to wipe her tears and watched as the child composed herself and put on a strong front for her siblings who looked on with frightened faces. They were just babies, thought Angela. What was she taking on? Could she do this?
Angela waved at the little ones and put her hands out to them and they came forward and grabbed onto her fingers as they were visibly trembling from everything going on around them. Angela could see they were confused and frightened and missed their mother. She waited at the door with the children holding tightly to her fingers as Clarinda came back with her hands full of clothes and a few ragged stuffed animals. She rummaged around in the kitchen for a plastic bag in which to put their clothes and two stuffed animals.
Now it was time to go to Mrs. Antonelli’s house. She really didn’t know anything about this lady but what her mother had told her – she was a cold woman who didn’t like children and never had any of her own. Would she be good to her and her siblings? She would protect her brother and sister and not let this lady hurt them in any way. She took a deep breath as she always had to get her strength up and face whatever was ahead. She turned to face Mrs. Antonelli who was holding onto her brother and sister.
Mrs. Antonelli looked kindly at Clarinda and said, “Hi Clarinda, it is nice to meet you. I hope you and your brother and sister will be happy staying with me while your mother recuperates. Do you have everything you need? If not, I will get whatever you need for all of you. Don’t worry about anything, dear. Let me take care of you.” Angela waited to see what Clarinda would say but she just looked at Mrs. Antonelli with eyes full of tears threatening to fall.
Mrs. Antonelli beckoned for Clarinda to come forward so they could leave. The children were getting antsy and tired and were hungry. They hadn’t eaten since noon time. Clarinda only hoped that Mrs. Antonelli would feed the children so they would be able to sleep the night through with full tummies. She couldn’t remember when she last had a full tummy at bedtime or any time.
Angela led the children out to her car after locking up the house and making sure that Clarinda had a key to get back in case she forgot something. After making sure the children were snapped into seat belts she headed home. She would have to make sure she purchased car seats for the younger children. At least she didn’t have to go too far with them since she only lived a block away and didn’t have to worry about being stopped and fined for not having them in car seats.
When they arrived at her house, Angela went to the kitchen and prepared a nourishing dinner for the children. They looked a little pale and underfed and by what Dr. Harvey said they were very needy. Looking around the room at their house she hadn’t seen any signs of toys that children always leave out and about. She reminded herself to make a list for toys and more snacks that kids like on her next shopping trip. The saddest of all was the lack of any Christmas decorations for the children in their house. She would take care of that too before Christmas.
In the meantime Angela had a lot to do and for once in her life felt alive and full of purpose and needed. Her husband was expected from work shortly and she would have to call ahead to prepare him for what she had promised to do. Leonard was a kind man and would be more than accepting of their three young visitors.
Angela dialed her husband and Leonard answered in his usual gregarious voice, “Hi Doll Face! How are you? You couldn’t wait for me to come home – you missed me that much? Is everything okay, love?”
“Yes, sweetheart, I just wanted to tell you something that I did today. It’s very important and I needed to help and……” Angela didn’t know how to tell him but finally blurted it out. “I took in Mrs. Davis’ three children, the lady who does our curtains and things over on the next block. She was just admitted to the hospital in a bad way and her physician, Dr. Harvey, called me to help out until she is well enough to care for her children again.”
“Sweetheart, whatever you have to do is okay with me. I know you have a kind heart and would take in any stray dog if it needed your help. It is fine with me. How did this doctor know to call you? Do you know him?”
“No, but he knew from Mrs. Davis’ oldest daughter that she worked for me. He said he didn’t have anyone else to call. I hope you don’t mind, darling. They will be under my care and you won’t have to worry about anything.”
“No, I don’t mind. Our house is too big for just us anyway and it would be nice to hear the pitter patter of little feet for a change. Oh, by the way, how old are these children?”
“Well, the oldest, Clarinda, is ten and a real beauty with dark brown hair and beautiful blue eyes, then there is Andrew, a handsome four-year-old with blond hair and green eyes and his baby sister, Brenda, who is only two. She is just adorable with curly blonde hair and pretty green eyes. Your heart will melt when you meet them. They are so precious and so needy. Would you believe that they don’t own any toys or new clothes? Also, there were no signs of Christmas in their house. It is so sad for children to live that way. Their mother was having a difficult time on her own. I never realized that she needed help. I would have been more than happy to help if she only had asked me.”
“I am sure you will do more than enough to help them now that you know they need help, sweetheart. It is good to hear you sounding so happy. I can’t wait to get home to meet them. See you soon, Angela.”
Angela put down the phone and continued making dinner, mac and cheese and chicken fingers and mixed veggies. She wanted to make sure the kids got their veggies too. She heard the sound of feet coming up behind her and looked down to see the sweet faces of Brenda and Andrew and close behind was Clarinda. They were looking at the food with such longing that she told them to go wash their hands and faces and come sit down to eat. They hurried along to the bathroom that had been pointed out to them earlier and came back and sat down before Angela could turn back around with the food in hand.
The children were sitting down with napkins tucked under their chins and forks in hand waiting expectantly for their much coveted dinner. Angela placed a plate full of food in front of each child and stepped back. Clarinda jumped up and ran over to her sister’s side and began cutting up her chicken and then moved over to Andrew’s and did the same for him. Angela watched in awe as this young girl acted as if she was their mother. Once she had taken care of her sibling’s needs she sat down and began to eat her own food.
The children were so hungry that they ate too fast at first and began to choke. Clarinda jumped up once again to aid her siblings and told them to slow down and chew their food carefully. Angela sat at the other end of the table and watched as the children finished every last morsel in their dishes and drank every drop of their milk.
Angela asked them, “Would you like more food or milk?”
“No, we are fine, thank you, Mrs. Antonelli. It was very good.” Clarinda turned to her siblings and said, “Say ‘thank you’ to Mrs. Antonelli, Brenda and Andrew.”
“Tank you,” said Brenda.
“Thank you,” replied Andrew who smiled showing some chicken still stuck in his teeth.
Angela had to keep herself busy and grabbed the plates off the table to prevent her eyes from filling and spilling over in front of the children. She mumbled, “You are welcome, children.”
Leonard had walked in quietly and had witnessed this unbeknownst to his wife and suddenly cleared his throat to get her attention. She rushed over to hug him and then introduced him to the children. They stood up and looked at him not sure what to do or say.
Clarinda broke the silence by saying, “Hello, Mr. Antonelli, nice to meet you. Thank you for letting us stay in your home.” She walked over to Leonard and extended her small hand in greeting.
Leonard was a loss for words and just reached over and shook her hand and smiled at her as she looked up at him with the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen besides his wife’s, that is.
Clarinda brought her brother and sister in turn over to Mr. Antonelli and they both shake his hand too. Leonard just wiped his eyes and smiled and said, “It is a real pleasure to meet all of you too. I hope you enjoy staying with us as much as I am sure we will enjoy you being here.”
Angela finished up the dishes and told Leonard that she was going to put the children to bed upstairs in the three guest rooms. They had five bedrooms and four bathrooms which they had hoped one day to fill. Now at least they would be using three of them. The children followed Angela up the long winding staircase to begin their unexpected stay at this big strange house.
When they were situated in their rooms Clarinda requested that they all stay in the same room since there were two beds in each spacious room which was more than enough for the three of them. She didn’t want to be separated from her siblings and they too would not do well too far away from her either. Once Brenda’s head hit the pillow she was off as well as Andrew. It was the first time they had full stomachs at bedtime. Once she was sure they were asleep she allowed herself to snuggle down under the warm, soft comforter and she, too, fell fast asleep.
Angela peeked in at them and tucked them all in and gave each a peck on the cheek. She shut off the light but not before looking fondly at each sweet face in the beds. She felt such a longing and a tightness in her chest that she thought she was having a heart attack. She realized that it was pure joy at finally having children in her home, something that she had always wanted.
Angela flew downstairs to her husband and rushed into his arms as her tears fell onto his shoulder. He held her tightly and said, “Whatever happens, sweetheart, I promise you that we will adopt a child once these children go back to their mother. I see now how much you need to have a child and, I have to admit, I need one too. These three are very precious aren’t they?”
“I pray that their mother recovers and can take care of them. I wanted to talk to you about that. Do you think she will mind if we give each child a share of our trust so that they can have enough to eat, clothes to wear and be able to get a good education one day. Maybe we can give them the best Christmas they ever had this year.”
“Tomorrow we will go out and start Christmas shopping for the children and decorate the house and get a tree and…… Oh, Leonard, I have never felt happier in my life all due to poor Mrs. Davis’ getting sick. I pray that she will be well soon. In the meantime we will give her children a home with us and do all we can to help her by paying all her bills in the hospital and on her house. No one should have to live as she did. Maybe she would like to live here with us. We certainly have enough room for everyone. We have so much to give and we need so little for ourselves. Up until now I didn’t feel like celebrating Christmas and hadn’t even bothered to put up the tree. But now with these lovely children I want to go all out and decorate from top to bottom.”
“Yes, my darling, whatever your heart desires we will do. It is such a joy to see you so happy. But let’s take it one day at a time. We don’t want Mrs. Davis to feel as if we are trying to take over. She may want to go to her own home when she is well.
The ringing of the phone startled them as they were lost in their plans. Leonard went to pick it up and raised his hand for Angela to come closer as she heard him say, “Yes, Dr. Harvey, the children are doing fine. They are all tucked in bed and sound asleep. How is Mrs. Davis doing? Do you know when she will be returning home yet?”
Dr. Harvey explained, “She is very sick but is coming around now and is taking fluids. I hope to see her feeling better by tomorrow in case you want to bring the children by for a little while. They will have to wear masks when they visit with her. We don’t want them getting sick too. She asked for them as soon as she was awake. I told her that you and your wife were taking care of them. She was very pleased and said to tell you ‘thank you very much for your kindness.’”
“Yes, we were just discussing that. We want to bring the children by on Christmas Day so they can celebrate the day with their mother. I will bring a dinner for all of us if you care to join us. Will the hospital allow us to do that?”
“I will make sure they do. Don’t you worry about that, Mr. Antonelli. I have a lot of pull around here. Mrs. Davis will be very happy to hear this. It will give her an extra day to recuperate and rest more. This is very gracious of both of you. Thank you. Well, I just wanted to check in on the children. Have to get back to rounds. Hope you both have a good evening and thank you again. Goodnight.”
“You are very welcome, Dr. Harvey. Goodnight.” Leonard hung up the phone and turned to his wife and nodded. “It is all set we can go visit on Christmas. The children will be so happy.”
“I am happy too.” Angela smiled and twirled around as she felt her heart swell with all the joy that was bubbling up inside her.
Clarinda jumped up from her warm bed and looked around and realized where she was but something wasn’t right. Oh my God! She just remembered she forgot to bring Mrs. Antonelli’s wash? How would she get paid so she could buy the children gifts for Christmas? She must tell Mrs. Antonelli.
Clarinda ran all the way down the stairs and stopped at the foot of the stairs when she saw the Antonelli’s hugging and crying. She wondered what was wrong. Were they upset because she and her siblings were there?
She coughed to get their attention but didn’t move. The Antonelli’s turned around and were surprised to see Clarinda standing there staring at them and looking a little upset.
They went over to her and took her into their arms and hugged her. Clarinda hugged them back but was surprised at their gesture. She stepped back and said, “Excuse me Mr. & Mrs. Antonelli, but I almost forgot to tell you I finished your wash and left it at my house. Do you want me to go get it so you can pay me? I need to buy my brother and sister and mother a gift for Christmas.”
“Oh, no, dear sweet child. You will never have to wash or do anything like that again. We will take care of you and your siblings and your mother for as long as we live and you will never want for anything. May God bless you all. You will always have a home here, too, if you ever need us.”
Clarinda couldn’t say a word she was shocked at what these nice people had just said. All she could do was cry and run into their arms and kiss them and thank them again and again but added, “Can we go visit our mother in the hospital on Christmas Day? I don’t want her to be alone.” Clarinda looked on the verge of tears just talking about her sick mother.
“Oh, dear sweet child, of course. We were going to tell you tomorrow about what we planned to do. We are going to go shopping for new clothes for you and your siblings and buy each of you a present to give to your mother for Christmas. We will bring a Christmas dinner to her and we can all eat together. I am sure the hospital will allow us to eat together so we can celebrate the holiday as a family. When we get back we will go over to your house and decorate and buy some new things for your rooms and for your mother too. We want your house to look like new for when your mother returns home.” Angela had tears in her eyes as she explained their plan.
“Oh, Mr. & Mrs. Antonelli, this is the best Christmas I have ever had! Thank you so much! Now I can go to asleep! I can’t wait to tell Andrew and Brenda that we are going to see Mama and celebrate Christmas together. Good night and Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas to you, too, sweet child!”
Angela and Leonard hugged and cried as they talked excitedly about what they were going to do and buy for the children and their mother for Christmas. They had never remembered feeling such pure joy. They gave thanks to God for bringing these children and their mother into their lonely lives. They vowed from this day on to always give to those in need not just at Christmas time but all the time.
Leonard looked at his lovely wife as she beamed with joy and said, “I often asked myself – ‘What is the true meaning of Christmas?’ Now I know – the true meaning of Christmas, besides being the day of Jesus’ birth of course – is giving to others in need.”
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas story. I hope to incorporate this story along with others in a book of short stories next Christmas. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and a healthy & Happy New Year!
Blessings to all!